As the elected Saratoga County District Attorney, I am disturbed by the recent actions of the Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino regarding an alleged incident that occurred in February involving several teenagers at a house party- some of whom are under the age of eighteen (18). Commissioner Montagnino inserted himself into an active police investigation being conducted by members of the Saratoga Springs Police Department (“SSPD”) and then turned to the media to publicize his premature and inaccurate take on the situation.
The integrity of all police investigations depends upon the basic tenets of our criminal justice system- that all are presumed innocent until sufficient information is developed to file charges. That presumption of innocence continues until a plea of guilty is entered or the accused is convicted after trial. During the course of an investigation, law enforcement officials diligently work to ensure that they uncover the facts surrounding the case- both facts that support charges and those that exonerate parties involved. Investigations are conducted to fully understand all of the facts involved in an incident. Many investigations require and take time to reach out to potential witnesses, gather supporting documentation and make sure that all relevant information is taken into consideration. My office works daily with members of law enforcement throughout Saratoga County to review, probe and assess the facts of cases filed throughout the 22 municipal courts in our County. In the end, the goal of all involved in the criminal justice system is to achieve justice for all- for the victims of crimes; our community as a whole and for the accused.
As is often the case during an on-going investigation, my office was briefed on the investigation involving the aforementioned house party incident by members of the SSPD. That agency was diligently reaching out to those involved and in attendance at this event to collect statements and information. They were conducting this investigation with integrity, professionalism and respect.
Commissioner Montagnino’s public insertion into an active, on-going investigation brought about a spin and dissemination of misinformation regarding the case. He chose to bring the case to the court of public opinion, not a court of law. In doing so, he exposed those involved to inappropriate scrutiny and shined a spotlight of social media commentary upon a purported victim. Those actions fly in the face of the concept that justice should be blind so that justice is delivered in a fair and unbiased manner. With the victim and their family recently informing the SSPD that they are requesting the case be closed without further law enforcement action, the sad result of the Commissioner’s public actions is that all involved have been subject to spin, speculation and ridicule.